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Palm Coast Friday, Apr. 21, 2017 5 years ago

Keeping up with Jones: 5 fascinating things about Flagler's history

The 100-year history of the county is a storied one, from railroad tycoons to potato farmers.
by: Colleen Michele Jones Community Editor

Even though I've lived in St. Augustine, the northerly city to Flagler County, for more than three years, there are things I've discovered in reporting for the Palm Coast Observer that have been fascinating to learn, particularly about the area's history.

That history -- dating back to 1917, when Flagler County was officially named and recognized as such -- is filled with storied tales of early founders, tycoon developers,  original families, and fledgling industries, such as potato farming. In taking a look back at this, the county's centennial anniversary, it is possible to see glimpses of those roots across the area -- albeit, much more developed than it was 100 years ago -- as well as how far Flagler has grown and changed in that same time.

  1. Flagler Beach was originally called "Ocean City." The town we now know as Flagler Beach was a strip of land perfectly situated between the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean. As such, it was a bustling port, with docks shipping out regular cargo, fresh seafood catches and such, but also a commodity it became especially known for, palm buds which were especially in demand before the Easter season. Another point of interest was the casino, located at the corner of SR 100 and Route A1A, where Finn's Beachside Pub currently operates today. The facility wasn't for gambling but more of a dance hall for community events. In 1923, the local post office was moved closer to the beachside and was slated to called the Ocean City Beach Post Office. Believing the name to be too long, town forefather George Moody suggested the name Flagler Beach Post Office, and it was accepted.
  2. There is good reason the humble potato features a prominent place in Flagler County's official government seal. If you eat a potato chip from either Lay’s, Utz or any number of regional brands, there’s a chance the potatoes were grown in Flagler County. The reason? From its earliest days as an agricultural center, Flagler began shipping spuds across country, especially to places where the crop wasn't available during the longer growing season in Northeast Florida. The emblem of a single potato was developed when the county incorporated in 1917. In 2010, officials created a more modern. colorful seal featuring a sun and pelican to promote economic development, but it does not officially replace the original seal.
  3. It may not be the Wizard of Oz's "Yellow Brick Road," but Bunnell's "Old Brick Road" is still famous around these parts. Pushed forward by Isaac Moody, Flagler (then part of St. Johns County) voters approved a $650,000 bond issue for a new highway to be made of brick that would be a direct route south from St. Augustine to Bunnell. Beginning in 1914, crews began working east toward then-Ocean City and north towards Espanola. The Dixie Highway, which we now call the "Old Brick Road," ceased to be a major roadway, when the New Dixie Highway, named by the state as Road 4 (now U.S. 1), was opened. A portion of it still can be seen in Bunnell.
  4. While many people today may think of the Intracoastal Waterway as a continuous body of water that runs parallel to the Atlantic Ocean through coastal areas like Flagler County, it was not always contiguous. In fact, many sections of the waterway were manmade, with land dredged and dug out to connect to the places where water did not flow freely. For instance, the Matanzas River, to the north of present-day Flagler, stopped around Washington Garden Oaks, and the Halifax River, to the south stagnated around present-day High Bridge. In 1831, a plan was made to construct a canal to connect the two bodies of water. The canal -- and that section of what we currently know as the Intracoastal -- was not fully functional, however, until about 1920.
  5. The name for Mala Compra, the plantation that was once home to 19-century settler Joseph Hernandez, translates to "bad purchase" in Spanish. While Hernandez was successful in getting a grant from his homeland of Spain in 1816, the land had historically been deemed too difficult to cultivate. Hernandez not only succeeded in growing on the farm, but ran a thriving plantation based on cotton and orange plants. The site has since been declared a national archeological site, and is now also home to a county park with a boat ramp and nature trails.




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